There’s so much to think about when deciding to have a baby, from the first steps you’ll need to take in preparing your body for pregnancy, to the products you’ll need to buy once the triumphant blue lines appear on your positive pregnancy test. If you’re an expectant mum, this is an article you won’t want to miss. Check out our comprehensive guide of 36 essentials in collaboration with life insurance quote provider Smart Insurance. You’ll find this list full of our own personal recommendations for products so you can be reassured that what you’re buying has been tried and tested.
Mums have to look after themselves and their babies – supplement your diet with vitamins.
Vitamin supplements that include folic acid should be taken during pregnancy because it’s an important preventer of birth defects such as spina bifida. Vitamin D, which keeps bones and teeth healthy and prevents rickets in children, is also available to buy in supplements from high street retailers like Boots. Fish oil is a valuable supplement as it boosts the level of omega-3 fatty acids, but it should be avoided if it comes from the liver of the fish – cod liver oil, for example, contains high levels of retinol which is harmful to infants.
We recommend Zita West’s fertility and preconception vitamins, and Zita’s supplements for all stages of pregnancy. You can shop Zita West here.
2) Pregnancy Books
Learn what to expect during your pregnancy from the women who have been through it.
3) Body Pillow
Maximise your comfort whether you’re in bed or on the sofa.
Sleeping can quickly become uncomfortable as your bump gets bigger, so a body pillow is a worthwhile addition to support it while you lie on your side. Some baby brands, such as Mothercare, design their pillows to mould themselves to your body to provide even greater comfort levels during the night. Certain pillows can also be used on the sofa and in chairs to make you feel more at ease during pregnancy wherever you are.
4) Waistband Extender
One of the obvious effects of pregnancy is a growing bump, which might not be immediately visible but can provide discomfort and make it difficult to wear normal trousers and skirts. Eventually you’ll probably have to make the transition into maternity clothing, but for now a waistband extender should do the trick. New Look’s bump bands are bands of elasticated fabric that sit over the bump and which can be attached to trousers and skirts to allow them to be worn unbuttoned and further down without them falling off.
5) New Bras
As your pregnancy progresses, your breasts will become more tender and you may find that your regular bras become uncomfortable to wear. If this happens, you may want to purchase new cotton bras without underwiring or begin wearing sports bras to give you the support you need without any of the discomfort. A lot of pregnant women also go up a cup size or two, so you may have to buy new bras anyway.
As the skin on your abdomen becomes tauter, it will become dryer and stretch marks may develop below your baby bump. Many women combat this by using specially-formulated moisturiser or body lotion on a daily basis for the duration of their pregnancy. Most popular brands are readily available in high street retailers like Boots and Superdrug.
7) Pregnancy Journal
Pregnancy is a one-of-a-kind experience that you’ll probably only go through a handful of times, and you may be feeling and thinking things you never have before. You may want to start a pregnancy journal to document your emotions and thoughts each week or so to begin connecting with your child (in a non-physical way) as early as possible. It will make for a wonderful, unique keepsake of your pregnancy experiences for you to treasure for the rest of your life.
Not On The High Street have so many lovely diaries to choose from.
8) Maternity Wear
You might be able to get away without buying too much maternity wear. Any loose tops or leggings with elasticated waistbands can be worn for a relatively long time, so don’t buy too much at once in case you don’t need it. Check out our recent post on spring/summer maternity wear, which includes some great items from Seraphine, Nine In The Mirror, Isabella Oliver, Ripe Maternity when the time does come to splash out on maternity wear.
9) A last holiday – book your babymoon!
The second trimester is an ideal time to take a final holiday before the baby arrives. Nausea and exhaustion are at their most debilitating until around week 15, while a lot of airlines require a GP’s letter or flat-out refuse to let you fly towards the end of your pregnancy. This is the last opportunity you’ll have to relax and have a break for what could be a long time, so don’t pass up the chance to get away for a couple of weeks in the sun.
Check out our top 14 best babymoon breaks in the UK if you’d prefer to stay close to home.
10) Sleep aids
On those nights where you can’t drop off, what can you do to make things easier.
You may find it more difficult to sleep the further along you get, but doctors discourage taking sleeping pills – if you feel like they could be the only thing that helps, consult your GP before using them. Otherwise, invest in other sleep aids like earplugs, eyemasks and fans, and avoid consuming stimulants just before bed to help you get a good night’s sleep.
11) Feeding chair
It’s a good idea to buy or define a feeding chair that can be placed in your baby’s room to handle late-night feedings. A chair with a rocker or glider will help soothe them and relax you, which you might need after a stressful night’s sleep.
We love this nursing chair by Olli Ella.
12) Baby clothes
Having a baby can be messy and you’ll find that you will be changing clothes frequently in the first days and weeks. Simple items such as baby gros that button all the way down the front will make life much easier in the early days when you can be changing nappies hourly (at least!).
Judging sizes can be difficult in advance. Items sized at 0-3 months may fit larger babies from birth but smaller babies will need items sized for newborns. Because babies quickly grow out of clothes, friends or family who have recently had children may well have items that are still in great condition that they can donate. Also, you are likely to receive items as gifts when the baby arrives so don’t be in too much of a rush to buy everything up front.
Depending on the weather, clothes you may need for the first few days and weeks include:
- One piece baby gros and sleep suits (8-10)
- Mittens and booties (2-3 pairs of each)
- Vests (6-8)
- Cardigans (2-3)
- Sun hats (2)
- Winter fleece or snowsuit (for winter babies)
- Socks (4-6 pairs)
If it’s baby booties you’re looking for, our favourites are Funky Feet. They have the most cutest soft baby slippers and shoes on the market.
13) Changing table
A changing table itself is not an essential item. However, you will need somewhere to change nappies which is flat, stable and easy to clean, so maybe it should be essential for those that don’t have a low chest-of-drawers or something similar to place a changing mat on. If you need the budget to spend elsewhere, though, you can get by without it.
Our favourite is the Stokke Care, which can be converted into a shelving unit and small desk.
14) Somewhere to sleep
The issue of where your baby will sleep is often debated – some parents opt for a Moses basket, some go straight for a cot. A Moses basket has the advantage of being portable, but your baby will probably outgrow it within the first three months. Another option that is becoming more popular is a bedside crib or co-sleeper. These allow the baby to sleep in a crib that attaches directly to the bed allowing mum easy access during the night for feeding or comforting.
Many parents opt for a cot straightaway but remember that it is advised that your baby does not sleep in a separate room for the first six months. This means that parents who are limited on space within their own bedrooms may find it difficult to accommodate a cot. Remember when purchasing a cot that a mattress will probably need to be purchased separately, increasing the cost significantly.
If it’s a Moses basket you’re after, our favourite are the luxury Moses baskets by Piccoli & Co. I love this one in Liberty print.
We recommend Mia Package Ivory Cotbed at Mamas and Papas is a fantastic option which can transform into a small bed when the time comes.
15) Baby bedding
It is essential that mattresses for cots or Moses baskets are firm and fit tightly so that they don’t allow any gaps to develop around the sides. Sheets should fit snugly around the mattress so that they don’t come loose. This is crucial to ensure that your child remains safe during the night.
It is also important that your baby doesn’t overheat during the night so avoid heavy blankets which could also be a suffocation hazard. Baby sleep bags or ‘grobags’ are a popular and safe choice these days. If you are using regular light blankets, these should be tucked in securely around the foot and sides of the mattress and cover up to your baby’s chest. Another option is a baby swaddle that wraps your baby tightly during sleep. Some babies react well to this, although it is important to be aware of guidelines for swaddling your baby.
Our favourites include:
16) Nursery accessories
Decorating the nursery is one of the more fun jobs to complete before its occupant arrives. In the past, nurseries were decorated in blue for a boy and in pink for a girl. Some consider this an old-fashioned idea, though, and it may make more sense to decorate according to your baby’s developing sight and colour recognition abilities. Favour bright shades and contrasting colours when buying pictures, mobiles, stuffed animals and furniture to pull the room together in a cosy, inviting way.
17) Comfortable shoes
One of the effects of pregnancy often forgotten about is the way that your feet might swell up, as your body will be holding more water than normal – this extra water will often collect in the lower parts of the body. With this in mind, comfortable shoes without heels, straps or anything that might pinch should probably be prioritised, especially if you’re on your feet a lot.
Check out our recent post on the coolest and most comfortable white trainers on the market at the moment.
18) Belly support band
As you near your due date, the baby will reposition itself in the womb to make as efficient an entrance as possible, but it will also put a lot of pressure on your pelvis. This causes back, abdominal and leg pain which needs to be eased to keep you going through the final stretch of your pregnancy. Many women employ a belly support band that can be worn discreetly under clothing.
We recommend JoJo Maman Bebe’s Maternity Support Belt.
19) Feeding supplies
Regardless of whether you’re planning to breastfeed or not, you’ll need a variety of supplies to make every mealtime as stress-free as possible.
- Bibs to keep milk, saliva and other yucky stuff off everyone’s clothing (4-6)
- Muslin cloths for the same purpose (10-12)
- Breast pump to allow others to handle the feeding on occasion
- Bottles and teats to use when not breastfeeding (4-6 sets)
- Steriliser to sterilise bottles, teats and anything else coming into contact with the baby’s mouth
- Baby formula if you’re not breastfeeding
You can pick up bibs and muslins pretty much everywhere, but our favourite muslins are aden + anais.
When it comes to breastfeeding we recommend Medela for the best pumps.
You’ll never seem to have enough nappies, but it’s important to have a decent supply of them to cover at least the first week or so – you’ll need about ten a day to start with! There are different sizes available that correspond to the size and weight of babies at different ages, but they differ between stores. Newborn sizes 1 and 2 should be suitable for all new babies. When a nappy begins leaking, that’s when the size should be increased. You should also purchase a change bag to hold the nappies when you’re out of the house.
21) Baby bath
Although babies can be bathed quite comfortably in a full-sized bath as long as you constantly have a hand on them to keep them upright, some parents prefer to buy a baby-specific bath. While it isn’t necessary, it can ease the strain on your back from leaning over an adult bath. Bath seats and bath supports that make it easier to wash a baby in an adult bath are also available, allowing you to free both your hands.
We love the Stokke Flexi bath, which is suitable for newborns and babies up to four years old.
22) Baby sling/harness
Baby slings have been used to carry infants for millennia, and it’s still a convenient way of carrying your baby when a pushchair or pram would be impractical (for example when taking the dog for a walk). It can be a very effective method of soothing, though it may be too effective, preventing the development of a settled sleep pattern at night – if this happens, reduce the amount that you use the carrier. Additionally, the sling shouldn’t put any strain on your back or knees.
The Rockin’ Baby Hero Sling is a favourite, and we love this baby pink colour for girls.
23) Hospital bag
Because you might have to drop everything and get to the hospital at a moment’s notice, it’s important to have your bag packed for a couple of weeks before the due date.
There are lots of bits and pieces that are easy to overlook, and the list below is designed to ensure that you remember everything you need (as well as the bits that are just nice to have) in order to make giving birth as stress-free for mum and dad as possible.
- Nursing nightwear x 2
- Dressing gown
- Comfortable cotton briefs x 2
- Disposable briefs
- Maternity towels x 48
- Nursing bras x 2
- Breast pads x 40
- Toiletries (shower gel, shampoo, deodorant, etc)
- Face cloth
- Comfortable clothes for going home in
- Gentle wet wipes
- Cotton wool
- Nappies x 10
- Baby bodysuits x 2
- Baby sleepsuits x 2
- Baby blanket
- Infant car seat
- Hand-held carrier
- Supportive pillow
- Phone and charger
- Vending machine/car park change
- Birthing plan
- Lotion/body oil
- Your medical records
- Snacks for mum and dad
Once the baby is born, you’ll need a changing bag. Check out the fabulous Pink Lining for all sorts of beautiful options, sizes and prints.
Choosing a pram and/or pushchair can be one of the most difficult (and costly) purchases you make. Generally speaking, prams are recommended for your baby’s first three months as they allow him/her to lie flat which is recommended as good for healthy development. Pushchairs, on the other hand, tend to be lighter making them more portable and convenient in later months.
Many prams these days offers complete travel systems, meaning they include a carrycot (for the first 3 months), a car seat and can also be converted to a pushchair. These offer a great all-in-one option but do tend to stretch the budget and also require more space to store the component parts.
The latest strollers on the market can be found in our latest column here.
25) Car seat
Car seats are an absolute essential for any parent who will be transporting their baby by car and can be another costly and confusing purchase.
Rear facing car seats are the safest option and are recommended for all children under 15 months of age. Car seats are fixed in the car using either a seat belt or an isofix system and it is important to consider which better suits your needs. Isofix involves buying a separate base that is fixed semi-permanently using standard fittings found in most modern cars. These make it easier to move the seat in and out of the car and are often considered safer due to their fixed anchoring. However, isofix bases can be expensive and sometimes cost more than the car seat itself.
Whichever car seat you choose always make sure you follow the fitting instructions carefully. Some retailers will offer to check that your car seat is fitted correctly after purchase.
This week, we tried and tested the latest Cosatto Hubub TweeTwoo car seat, and it’s currently our favourite!
26) Nursing Bras
Given the frequency with which you may have to breastfeed, anything that saves time is worth investing in. Nursing bras have flaps that open for easy access, so a few of those should be picked up to take to the hospital. Look for bras that aren’t too tight but still offer support.
27) Breast pads
When breastfeeding, many women find that leaking is a problem – it’s not the end of the world in private but it can be embarrassing in public, so breast pads that slip inside the cups of your bra are a good way of making sure that you don’t have any visible accidents. Note that leaking can begin before birth, so be vigilant and prepared.
28) Baby books
Given that you’ll already have bought pregnancy and birth books, it would be more cost-efficient to try and find titles that combine those areas with information about caring for your baby once he or she has arrived. Everything from breastfeeding techniques to swaddling should be covered to help ease the pressure that parents, especially if this is their first child, will probably be feeling. Titles to consider include:
29) Baby swing/bouncer
A baby swing can be very effective at soothing an irritable or fussy baby, though some don’t like it at all. Most models are either wind-up or battery-operated and offer a range of speeds. The frame should be sturdy and solid for maximum safety – test it with your baby in the shop before purchasing if you’re buying it after the birth. Be aware that some models are not suitable for use with babies under six weeks old.
We love the Capella Bouncer – Catch A Star at Mamas and Papas.
30) Maternity pads
Maternity pads are going to be very important immediately after the birth and for the next couple of weeks. They are stronger, more absorbent and longer-lasting than sanitary pads and are better suited to dealing with uterine bleeding (lochia) that begins straight after both traditional and caesarean birth. They’ll need to be changed every couple of hours to start with, but the bleeding will slow and eventually stop after around four weeks – sanitary pads and pantyliners can be used after the first couple of weeks.
31) Baby monitor
Although it is recommended that your baby sleeps in your bedroom at night for the first six months, there will be times during the day and early evening when you need to leave your baby to sleep while you get on with other things. At these times a baby monitor will allow you to move around the house while still allowing you to make sure everything is alright. Most models typically come with a transmitter, which picks up sounds from the nursery, and a receiver, which broadcasts the sounds where you are. There are more expensive video monitoring options available too.
We recommend Withings Baby Monitor – the most advanced in the world. I’ve tested this, and can vouch – it’s brilliant!
32) Baby health kit
Compiling a health kit for a baby is different to compiling an adult one. There are often child-specific versions of adult medicines that have to be bought – if you’re unsure about any product then you should check with your GP. Some of the items you may want to incorporate into your kit include:
- Infant and/or child thermometers (digital and ear/rectal)
- Children’s and/or infants’ ibuprofen (GP-recommended)
- Antihistamines (GP-recommended)
- Antibiotic ointment
- Irrigating eye wash
- Saline nose drops
- Aloe gel for burns
- Child-safe sunscreen
- Child-safe insect repellent
- Nasal aspirator bulb (not a pointy-ended ear syringe)
- Assortment of adhesive bandage strips
33) Play mat/gym
Playtime is a very important aspect of the parent-child bonding experience and also acts as a time when your baby can begin to learn about the world and human interaction. A soft play mat with an attached mobile will keep them entertained and stimulated for hours, and from the parent’s point-of-view it can be transported and used anywhere with a flat surface.
The Skip Hop Tree Top Baby Activity Gym at John Lewis looks awesome.
The Fisher Price Rainforest Melodies and Lights Deluxe Gym Mat is another brilliant choice.
We also recommend the Avery Row Go Everywhere Mat. It’s the best portable mat on the market, and it looks gorgeous.
Some babies respond well to dummies, others absolutely hate them. Though you may not consider them essential if they don’t work, dummies can be extremely useful as a method of soothing. While some people believe that they can lead to speech development problems and dental issues if they are used for too long, there is no evidence supporting their point of view. If a dummy works for your child, there’s no harm in using it.
Check out the Star and Moon Natural Rubber Pacifier from Hevea.
35) Safety items
It’s never too early to baby-proof the house, even though your little one won’t be mobile and exploring for at least a few months. Babies are naturally going to be curious about everything from power sockets to drawers to fridge doors to toilet seats, so latches and covers need to be employed to make sure they don’t get their hands on anything they shouldn’t be touching. Safety gates installed at the top and bottom of the stairs will also prevent nasty accidents.
36) Teething toys and gels
Teething is a difficult time for children, usually beginning when they are around six months old. It may present the first substantial problem for parents to deal with. Sore gums mean increased levels of irritability and pain coupled with sleep problems, but your baby’s discomfort can be eased with teething toys that can be safely chewed upon. Some parents also try teething gels which have the same effect, but a GP should be consulted before doing so, as there can be side-effects in rare cases.
Our favourites are: